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Midnight Champagne

Midnight Champagne by A. Manette Ansay
53 reviews (1999) (240p)
National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction Finalist

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Book Description

April Liesgang and Caleb Shannon have known each other for just three short months, so their Valentine's Day wedding at a chapel near the shores of Lake Michigan has both families in an uproar. As the festivities unfold (and the cash bar opens), everyone has an opinion and a lively prediction about April and Caleb's union, each the reflection of a different marital experience.

Meanwhile, at the nearby Hideaway Lodge, a domestic quarrel ends in tragedy. As April and Caleb's life together begins, death parts another man and woman in angry violence -- and as the two stories gradually intersect, their juxtaposition explores the tangled roots of vulnerability and desire.

By the time the last polka has been danced and the bouquet tossed, Midnight Champagne has cast an extraordinary spell. From the novel's opening epigraph from Chekhov -- "If you fear loneliness, then marriage is not for you" -- to its final moments in the honeymoon suite, A. Manette Ansay weaves tenderness and fury, passion and wonder into a startling tapestry of love in all its paradox and power. Review
A. Manette Ansay's novel about a wedding day 30 miles north of the Illinois state line has some of the earthy authenticity and knowing emotional detail of Jane Smiley. Yet the comic, melancholic voice in Midnight Champagne is very much her own. The scene is Valentine's Day at the Great Lakes Chapel and Hideaway Lodge, amid Wisconsin winter fields "the featureless white of amnesia." The place used to be a raunchy roadhouse where "room 33" was (and perhaps still is!) the code word for an assignation. A less libidinous lady ghost is also said to wander the halls. But the real nightmares here are of the everyday variety. April, 22 years old, a rebel artist, is abruptly marrying her new boyfriend from Nashville. Her family can't see why she dropped her all-too-steady ex-beau Barney, who sold Scotchgard products at the local Magic Carpet. Brooding Barney, invited to the wedding by mistake, can't see why either--though flashbacks illuminate the reason.

As the nuptials hit various snags (like a storm that knocks out the lights), April's family and friends reflect on vanishing marital passion, the presence of an ex-husband's pregnant young wife, the emotional mosh pit of the bride's tossed bouquet, and the kids'-eye view of it all. One does yearn for a more take-charge omniscient narrator to fuse the many characters' insightful musings--the novel's got a scattery feel. But it's a privilege to meet these people, visit this real-seeming place, and savor such flavorful sentences. --Tim Appelo

A. Manette Ansay Award Stats
Major Prize* Nominations 1  
Unique Books Nominated for a Major Prize* 1  
Pulitzer Prize Wins 0  
Pulitzer Prize Nominations 0  
National Book Critics Circle Award Wins 0  
National Book Critics Circle Award Nominations 1 Midnight Champagne ·  
National Book Award Wins 0  
National Book Award Nominations 0  
Man Booker Prize Wins 0  
Man Booker Prize Nominations 0  
PEN/Faulkner Award Wins 0  
PEN/Faulkner Award Nominations 0  

*Major Prize = Pulitzer Prize, National Book Critics Circle Award, National Book Award, Man Booker Prize, and PEN/Faulkner Award


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